It’s been years since I made the trek down to Pismo Beach for a camping trip. We loaded up our Ford camping van on Thursday night and hit the road early Friday morning and drove leisurely down California highway 1 through Big Sur. You cannot go wrong anywhere on the California coast as it’s gorgeous everywhere. The trip south on CA highway 1 through Big Sur is magnificent. As you are driving, you can take in sweeping views of ocean waves crashing into the rocky shoreline.
I always want to stop and stay at one of the funky resorts on the Big Sur coast. I never manage to stop because we are always traveling through. Even a simple campsite is going to cost $60 or more but is worth the money for the views.
Camping On Pismo Beach
Camping anywhere on the California coast is going to cost you big bucks. If it were not for the signs posted all over Pismo Beach that camping in your vehicle is not allowed on any city street, we would have slept in our stealth van. It’s not worth the risk of getting caught and having to pay a fine in these tiny tourist enclaves. The hefty $25 camping fee was worth it. If you plan on camping during the busy summer months, make your camping reservations months in advance. In my opinion, if you need reservations, then you are going to be fighting crowds. I like camping with peace and solitude. We gave up on reservations a few years ago and now make our campsites at out of the way places or we go to popular places in the off-season.
Where To Camp:
Oceano Beach CC. We stayed at Oceano Beach for first night because it was secluded from the winds off the beach. It was a short 5 minute walk to the beach. There are hot showers, hot running water, fire pits, and picnic tables. Bare bones with not so bare bones price tag. We paid $25.
North Beach CC. The following night we moved to the North Beach CC because it was close to huge monarch butterfly colony. My 2 boys were more interested in hiking around the dunes than looking at butterflies. The campground has beautiful wide open sites with grassy meadows. Bathrooms and hot showers are spread throughout the area. The beach is just a few minute walk. You can hear the crashing waves from your site.
Cheap Tent Camping At Pismo Beach-$10 Campsites
The cheapest place to camp legally in Pismo Beach is on the beach. For just 10 bucks, you drive your passenger vehicle on the hard packed beach sand and sleep with the sound of waves rolling in all night. It’s no problem if you don’t mind dealing with sand getting into your tent, your vehicle, and everything else. I would have camped here if it warmer. I had to keep my wife happy. We stayed at the well protected Oceano campground which included hot showers, hot water, flushing toilets, picnic tables, and grassy areas for setting up your tent. We slept in our van for comfort and warmth. The temperature dipped down to 41 degrees at night. For an extra $15, I think it’s well worth it to base camp at Oceano or North Beach campground. The $25 fee includes access to drive your vehicle on the beach and hang out as long as you like. The main benefits are real bathrooms and coming back to a campsite free of sand.
My boys enjoyed a full day of boogie boarding for only $25 each including wet suits, boards, and boots. Next time we will buy our own equipment at either Amazon, Walmart or Craigslist and sell them when we are through using them.
I called all the RV campgrounds in town and none of them catered to tent camping or van camping. One of them said that I could camp in my van if it was designated as a “camping van”. Avila Hot Springs used to have tent camping for about $25 a night. They were in the process of renovating the campground in the fall of November 2013. I got the feeling that they are in no hurry to get back into the camping business. It’s a rustic looking campground and for the money, I would hedge my camping bets here if they open again.
I would not waste my time with the KOA as their website quoted me $60 for a tent site. Nobody answers the phone after 5 PM in the winter. For this price, you could get a dumpy hotel with a warm bed. Better yet, park your van or RV in an out of the way place and stay for free.
Pismo Beach RV Camping
There are several RV Resorts that offer all the amenities including hot showers, heated pool, electricity, water, and free Wi-Fi. I contacted most of the resorts and they do not allow tent camping. Prices started at $35. I have noticed a growing trend that private campground and resorts offer more amenities for less money than public campgrounds. Most of the high end RV parks do not allow tent camping.
I have been using Moon Guide books for years. I have multiple guides for ten camping in California, Oregon, Idaho,Washington, and Utah.
It’s not that Moon makes great books. Moon finds the best camping experts in the world and publishes their content. My favorite for west coast camping is no other than Tom Stienstra. This guy knows his stuff. It he writes about anything, it’s because he has been there.
The book cost less than the price of a campsite. You can get it on Kindle or paper back. I would go with both as all my camping guides are dog eared and bent. You can download the Kindle to your smart phone.
Get the guide book today before you leave on your next trip. Click on the book to order at Amazon today.